Edit: I asked this question on the Italian Stack Exchange and got some rubbish comments, so I'm trying here instead.

The vast, vast majority of native Italian (i.e. not imported from another language) nouns and verbs end in vowels. It's very uncommon for native Italian nouns and verbs to stop at a consonant. Yet, when we look at Latin vocabulary, huge number of words end in hard consonants, e.g. diem, emptor, nauseam, rigor, nos, id, meus, and so on and so forth.

Italian is derived from Latin and is arguably closest to Latin among all the romance languages, but what happened to the consonant endings? How did the same population who a few centuries ago used to speak Latin with all its consonant-endings manage to lose not one or two but all of them in the derived language? It's as if such sounds never existed in this population, like the sound ZI doesn't naturally occur in Japanese, or the sound æ (as in English man or stand) doesn't naturally occur in German.

It's stranger in this case because Latin after all originated in Italy, not in a foreign country. It's intimately associated with Italy's history and culture. So what happened?

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    Very well, I'll edit the question and mention that I got mostly rubbish responses on the Italian Stack Exchange.
    – user29247
    Jul 23, 2020 at 13:46
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    The Why question is not answerable at all. Languages evolve, but there is randomness in that process: Other Romance languages like French, Catalan or Spanish came out pretty different from Italian despite starting from the same Vulgar Latin long time ago. Jul 23, 2020 at 14:03
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    They didn’t speak Latin “a few centuries ago”. Classical Latin (which is what your Latin examples are) hasn’t been actively spoken for well over 1,500 years, during which a lot can happen – compare Cædmon’s Hymn, English from that time (actually later): Nū scylun herġan hefænrīcæs Uard, metudæs mæcti end his mōdġidanc. With Italian, the loss of certain consonants in word-final position accounts for most of it; in your list, inherited forms were diem, emptorem, nauseam, rigorem, meum – see the pattern there? Only nos and id aren’t handled by just the loss of -m. Jul 23, 2020 at 14:28
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    Take a look here latin.stackexchange.com/q/5792/39
    – Alex B.
    Jul 23, 2020 at 15:56
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    The changes in Spoken (Vulgar) Latin that happened toward the end of the Republic are the poster child for the grammaticalization cycle. All the Latin nominal paradigms were hanging on the end of the word, where they lost most of their distinctions to sound changes and fell off, destroying all the paradigms in the process. From 5 cases and 3 genders in Latin, Italian went to 0 cases and 2 genders.
    – jlawler
    Jul 24, 2020 at 2:19

2 Answers 2


The current result that you are referring to is the product of 2 millenia of language change, which in also resulted in the distinct properties of French, Romanian, Catalan, Spanish, Sardinian and so on. One really would have to study the entirety of phonological history through vulgar Latin to Proto-Romance on down to the particular language state that you are interested in. A focus on changes in morphology is especially called for, because the vast majority of words in Classical Latin have inflectional suffixes, most of which are gone or have changed in form in the modern languages. Many of the changes got started in Latin, for instance there is a graffitum at Pompei quisque ama valia, corresponding to Classical quisquis amat valeat. Although this exhibits loss of final t, final t loss is not a pan-Romance universal.

A large part of the answer is "there were these specific changes", followed by a long list. There has always been a major imbalance in the distribution of final consonants in Indo-European favoring t,s,m so that a phonetic change weakening and eventually deleting m or s would have a major impact on the surface possibilities for final consonants.

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    For final consonants in IE, r, l and n are also quite heavily favoured (n not so much in PIE itself, but in many daughter branches). Jul 23, 2020 at 17:11

All living languages change continuously, and native speakers often react to changes by re-analyzing existing word forms on the basis of a recent change. In addition, there are changes resulting from government standardization, as well as movements to "purify" a language by restoring the forms from some classical period (e.g katharevousa vs demotic in shaping modern Greek). Because - thanks to Dante - the Tuscan dialect became the basis for standard Italian, terminal vowels are much more common than if some other dialect had been used as the basis. The Venetian dialect, for example, likes chopping off terminal vowels.

In short, where a language is now is partly determined by where it started, subject to government rules, popular influences, and random changes.

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